Rated PG-13. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Emma Thompson, Frank Langella, Pamela Reed, Judy Collins.
What do you call the son of a Terminator and a Baby Maker? Why, Junior, of course. As directed by Ivan Reitman, Arnold Schwarzenegger's newest interpolation of his screen persona delivers about as many surprises as a planned pregnancy. Junior is now the third comedy Reitman and Schwarzenegger have made together -- Twins and Kindergarten Cop are the other two. Once again, these two have structured an entire movie around a single wacky premise, yet one designed to broaden the Schwarzenegger mystique: In Twins, the superhero-muscleman proved he could master comedy in the one-joke (but a good joke) story that outrageously mismatched him with Danny DeVito as long-lost twin brothers; Kindergarten Cop softened his law-enforcement persona by surrounding the character with a classful of children. Reitman long ago established himself as one of the guiding lights of film comedy (Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Dave) and though everything he touches may not turn out to be blockbuster material, it is always assuredly competent and amusing. But Junior seems as though it were conceived while on autopilot. Formula: Repeat the wonderful “opposites attract” pairing of DeVito and Schwarzenegger, boost the “kiddie madness” of Kindergarten Cop to an even more ludicrous level by having the muscleman play the world's first pregnant man, further the preposterous mismatches by pairing Schwarzenegger with an unlikely love interest -- the stereotypically British, classical actress Emma Thompson, cast here as a spacey scientist. Junior succeeds at being silly in all the ways it intended. On a purely visual level, Junior is always good for a laugh -- a mere shot of Schwarzenegger's prosthetically impregnated stomach is usually sufficient to do the trick. Still, the movie doesn't move quickly or riotously enough for us to be able to suspend all critical disbelief and go with the flow. First, you have to accept Schwarzenegger as a doctor and dry research scientist. (Tough.) Next, you have to accept DeVito as an OB-GYN physician and fertility expert. (Frightening!) But your mind will continually pester you because it gets hung up thinking about the exact mechanics by which a wombless man might carry a fetus to full term. And then, once the effects of the estrogen kick in, Schwarzenegger is increasingly overwhelmed by stereotypically “female” behavior -- he becomes an emotionally needy partner (a wife to DeVito's husband), craves pickles, and cries over sappy stuff on TV. He suffers morning sickness but no breast engorgement, his sexual desire is heightened but he remains a confirmed male heterosexual. Funny stuff, this estrogen. Weirdest of all (even weirder than Judy Collins' presence in the film), is hearing Schwarzenegger uttering the movie's signature line: “My body; my choice.” It's even weirder than seeing his character dressed in drag -- an obvious bow to the hip movie fashion of the year. Junior is passable entertainment, but it could hardly be called fully developed.
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